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Politics

Crisafulli: 'It's Possible' No Stadium Funding This Year

February 10, 2015 - 6:00pm

The backroom lobbying lawmakers hoped to avoid when they set up a new stadium-funding process has started, as rankings have been released for four sports projects seeking a bundle of sales-tax dollars.

However, lawmakers might not be willing to dish out any stadium money this year, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said.

"It's possible. I mean it's very possible, but I can't tell you for sure," the Merritt Island Republican said during an interview Wednesday with The News Service of Florida.

The House and Senate have not set plans for a Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting to determine how the stadiums' requests should be funded or if any money should be awarded.

"I have no intention of pushing our members in any direction," said Crisafulli, who noted that members are "being worked on by the interests that have a stake in this."

State economists Tuesday gave Orlando's planned $110 million Major League Soccer stadium the top ranking over three existing sports venues as they seek sales-tax dollars.

The Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research placed the proposal from Jacksonville's EverBank Field second, followed by Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County and Daytona International Speedway.

Speedway officials were quick to note they will voice their objections to lawmakers about landing in the fourth position.

Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, issued a statement that said he believes the investment in the ongoing raceway improvements should have placed the complex second.

"Based upon the permanent jobs and the use of locally available building materials, as explained in the application, we believe that we should be ranked second among the applicants," Chitwood said in a statement after economists released the rankings Tuesday. "We will send a detailed response in writing to legislative leadership to clarify our score and ranking."

The 480-acre Daytona Speedway is undergoing a $400 million makeover called "Daytona Rising," which includes new entrances, expanded entertainment concourses, increased refreshment and concession areas and wider seating. It is expected to be completed by early 2016.

Daytona International Speedway and South Florida Stadium, applying for the Miami Dolphins home Sun Life Stadium, are each seeking $3 million a year in sales-tax revenues for 30 years for improvements.

Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for the soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

The four proposals combined are seeking $9 million a year from the state. But they are vying this year for money from a pool of $7 million that lawmakers approved in 2014. The pool grows in 2016.

The process was set up last year in reaction to a number of heavily lobbied efforts to secure state funding for stadium projects.

This year's rankings were based on a set of criteria that lawmakers wanted the state Department of Economic Opportunity to use when reviewing the economic viability of each proposal.

Crisafulli on Wednesday continued to voice displeasure that the state agency didn't provide lawmakers with rankings in January. Instead, the department gave support to all four stadium projects.

"To be clear, those weren't the rankings I asked for," said Crisafulli, who also questioned the department's evaluation criteria.

"The way the DEO set up the process, they didn't include a couple of pretty major components, which is what we care most about and that's the ROI (return on investment) components," Crisafulli added.

The department defended its decision not to rank the proposals two weeks ago, issuing a statement that said the state's new application process for stadiums included a provision that "omits a competitive evaluation and ranking component" for projects started between March 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014.

"All pending applications (City of Jacksonville, City of Orlando, Daytona International Speedway LLC, and South Florida Stadium LLC) fall under the special application process and therefore do not require ranking by the department," the statement said.

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